French deal could lift Libya sanctions

A resolution formally lifting UN sanctions imposed on Libya after the Lockerbie bombing could be passed this week after France said a compensation deal with Tripoli over a separate airliner attack was near agreement.

In 1989, 170 people were killed when a French airliner was bombed. Paris had threatened to veto the lifting of sanctions until this agreement had been reached.

"The basis of an accord has been found, it remains to be finalised and that is what will be done in the next few hours," the French Foreign Minister, Dominic de Villepin, told a French radio station.

Asked if France would allow the Security Council to pass a British draft resolution lifting sanctions this week, he replied: "We have always said we back the principle of lifting sanctions and of course this will lead us to draw the consequences very quickly."

France, under intense domestic pressure to secure additional compensation for the bombing, has been the main stumbling block in the lifting of UN sanctions since Libya agreed last month to accept formal responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and to pay a total of $2.7bn (£1.7bn) in compensation to the families of the 270 people who were killed.

Although Libya has already paid $34m to France for the bombing of the French UTA plane over Niger, the French authorities have been pushing for more. One report said France had now reached a deal giving each family an additional $300,000.

At the weekend, the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, said French President Jacques Chirac had phoned him and urged him to provide additional compensation.

Washington has said it intends to continue its own sanctions that include a ban on Libyan oil sales to the US.

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